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Bringing chess into the classroom: 'It's not just playing a game'

Felicity Steers says her third-graders are learning math, critical thinking, and sportsmanship alongside chess.

NEW PLYMOUTH, Idaho — When kids learn to play chess, they can also learn to think deeply about the decisions they make in life. Felicity Steers stands by that philosophy and that's why she rallied to get the game of chess into her third-grade classroom at  New Plymouth Elementary School.

"There are so many things that go along with chess," Steers said. "It's not just playing a game. At the very basic level before you put the pieces on the board you are learning graphing skills, Knight to E4, and you have to be able to find those coordinates. So even before the pieces are there there's math involved. Definitely, critical thinking skills, knowing how many pieces to move, thinking ahead, that strategy, a lot of advanced math is multiple steps so having that step by step game of chess backs that up."

But Steers argues the life skills learned through the game are the most notable for her students: Skills like patience, planning, flexibility and sportsmanship.

"I think one of the great life skills that chess gives you is the ability to think ahead instead of reacting," she said. "Chess has a great ability that they need to stop and plan and think things through before moving to the next step, and I think many people would benefit from it."

She was awarded an Idaho CapEd Foundation grant to bring chess to her classroom and two others in New Plymouth. Right now about 75 students there are learning the game.

If you would like to nominate a teacher who is going above and beyond, send us an email to innovativeeducator@ktvb.com. Educators, for more information on submitting an application for a classroom grant through the Idaho CapEd Foundation, visit www.capedfoundation.org.

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